The GOP's former governors who might make a presidential run
© Greg Nash

This piece is the first installment in a four-part series examining Republican candidates for president. The second and third installments can be found here and here, respectively.

Look, its a free country. And it is true that anybody can grow up and become president. Nowhere is this more starkly apparent than the 2016 Republican presidential race. Every day, there seems to be a new candidate emerging. It's getting quite confusing, even for people such as me who are interested in the subject.

When you go to the ballgame, there is the hawker chanting, "You can't tell the players without a program." So here's my program. To make things tidy and neat, I'm assembling the White House aspirants by clearly defined categories. This first column will be devoted to former governors.


Leading the list is the presumptive front-runner, the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. Bush has the benefit of extremely high name recognition (You remember that his brother and father just happened to be presidents.) He is also supposed to be Mr. Moneybags. That means he has the potential to raise lots of bucks, which will intimidate others from either running or into soon dropping out. He is a self-proclaimed conservative, but nobody believes that. He is a moderate, but that's a dirty word in the GOP. Speaking fluent Spanish is definitely a plus.

Mike Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas. He is a man of many worlds. Baptist preacher, TV personality, on-and-off diet practitioner, winner of the 2008 Iowa caucus, a leader of pilgrimages to Israel, an unabashedly pro-Israel. Appears amiable and affable, a likeable persona. Even President Clinton says nice things about him. But is he old news and will he have to share the evangelical vote with so many others?

Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Another VPOTUS tries for POTUS: What does history tell us? House Dems propose billions in extra funding for environmental programs that Trump sought to cut MORE is the former governor of Texas. In fact, the longest serving in state history: 14 years. Wants you to immediately forget his disastrous and laughable 2012 presidential campaign. Just for the historical record, Perry had a severe memory problem when it came to remembering the three governmental agencies (or was it four; I forget) that should be eliminated. He was one of the very earliest dropouts. (I do remember it was right before the early South Carolina primary, but how important was that? Former Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia won that one.) Perry is now assiduously being tutored by tutors, especially in foreign policy. He has new glasses, which are thought to be more fashionable and make him look more cerebral.

George Pataki is the former governor of New York. In fact, he won the governorship three times. The first time, he beat Democratic Party icon Mario Cuomo, the incumbent governor. Pataki will constantly remind everybody of that. The problem with this candidacy is, since he left the governorship, the question can be rightly asked, where has he been and what has he been doing? The tallest candidate, if that counts for anything.

Governors are supposed to be more qualified to be president than mere senators. They are presumed to have "executive qualities" and "executive experience." They are thought to be more adept at decision-making and have an "executive persona" (whatever that means). More than anything, they know how to "run things."

The rap on Obama is that he never was in charge of anything. Governors of note who became president in this country have been of both parties. The Democrats proudly point to Bill Clinton and Franklin Roosevelt. The Republicans to George W. Bush and Theodore Roosevelt. Richard Nixon lost the race for governor of California in 1962, but that did not stop him. He came back and won the presidency in 1968.

Next week, there will be a second category: incumbent governors who want to move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.